Elle Canada posted our story on Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan and sidebars about Young Women for Change and Toofan Beauty Salon. The latter was edited away to nothing, so the story below is the original. The women in the final photo are sisters and co-owners of Toofan. http://www.ellecanada.com/living/culture/elle-world-writing-a-new-future-for-afghanistan/a/74065
Toofan Beauty Salon
About 20 women, heads sprouting tightly pinned curls of black hair, sit gossiping on chairs while toddlers whiz about underfoot. Another half dozen women sit in front of Toofan beauty salon’s long mirror, watching their transformation from Kabul beauties to Bollywood sirens with dramatic eye makeup (always matching the colour of the dress), thick foundation and elaborate hairdos.
Toofan is a sanctuary — a place to discard the burqa and headscarves and escape from patriarchal, conservative customs. Femininity within the country isn’t honoured, and women are expected to embody humility and modesty by hiding their beauty from men. This means that most women are forbidden from keeping company with men who aren’t family members — a tradition that effectively keeps them from participating in politics or education. In Afghanistan, tragically, beauty is considered a sin.
Toofan, as well as Kabul’s many other popular salons, are places of subtle change and quiet public discourse. Here, says 20-year-old Zakiah Hakim, women discuss politics, the latest suicide bombings, as well as the minutiae of women’s daily lives that fill the air of beauty salons everywhere. Hakim, who studies abroad in London, England, is being primped for her sister’s wedding. I remark to her that she and the other clients all look like movie stars. “That’s the point,” Hakim huffs, fluttering false eyelashes that reach artfully arched brows. In Afghanistan, the genders are separated at Afghanistan weddings, allowing women to burst from the chrysalis of convention, exposing skin in shiny cocktail dresses and expressing—if only for a short time—their individuality and flare for fashion and glamour.
Even during the five-year reign of terror by the Taliban, Toofan was an oasis for women. From 1996 to 2001, Toofan operated out of a private home as a ‘tailoring shop,’ says co-owner Fariba Ejtemai. Cosmetics were forbidden under the Taliban, but that didn’t stop some members from secretly sending their wives to Toofan to be dolled up for special occasions, Ejtemai says.
That salons like Toofan operate in the open is a sign of progress in Afghanistan. Salons are also one of the ways that women can achieve economic independence, says Ejtemai, whose four sisters — all Toofan co-owners — earn sufficient income to support their families and put their children through school.